Minneapolis City brushed aside visiting Dakota Fusion 2-1 to win its home opener in front of a strong crowd at Edor Nelson Field.
It was a fine win for the Crows, who haven’t lost a conference game since 2017, though, with the home side hitting the woodwork on four occasions, on the whole the scoreline flattered the guests.
Dakota Fusion were completely revamped from last season and the large, powerful, and physical team got off to a fast start, pressing and harrying the Crows. Their persistence paid off as they won a penalty in the first quarter hour.
However, Jacques Ncegetere’s unorthodox approach to taking the penalty was not enough to fool City goalkeeper Matt Elder.
Elder went the right way—to his right—and made a fine save to keep the game scoreless. That was his third penalty save in North Conference play in the past three years.
The penalty escape woke up the hosts, and their moved up a gear. The midfield engine room, with Samuel Ruiz Plaza, Max Stiegwardt, and Charlie Adams was purring, all clever interplay and cute passes before releasing fast forwards Justin Oliver, Whitney Browne, and Will Kidd. The Fusion defense began to get stretched, both figuratively and also literally as a series of sliding blocks, heavy tackles, and brave blocks just about kept Minneapolis City at bay. At least for a time.
A quick free kick saw the ball run to Whitney Browne whose shot was blocked. However, the ball looped up into the air for Max Kent to head home—the opening goal of the game, and of the season for his hometown club.
The Crows were firmly in control and pressing for another.
That doesn’t mean it was one-way traffic. Dakota were able on the counter, using wide forward Isaac Kehson in particular to key their attacks. However, a City defense marshaled by Kent was more than up for the task.
As the half wore on, City’s edge in possession and was creating more and more attacking chances. The Fusion defense continued to throw their bodies in front of shots and just about do enough to stop through balls and attacking passes in the box. Their effort and grit was remarkable.
But City were irresistible.
As the half drew to a close, it was City again who found the back of the net. Kent rose to meet a corner but was able only to flick it on to Jonah Garcia, making his City debut. The big defender composed himself and rifled a low shot past the Fusion goalkeeper to make it 2-0.
There was less attacking verve in the second half, though the Crows forced Billhart in the Fusion goal into a number of sharp saves. Billhart was to finish with seven saves on the night, the woodwork a further four.
That doesn’t mean the game wasn’t without bite. Flailing elbows and heavy tackles continued largely unabated. City, while incensed at their harsh treatment, seemed content to let it run down the clock and there were already firmly in control when, in the 80th minute, substitute Emra Beljulji completely lost the plot and struck Max Kent in the face after a Fusion corner was cleared.
And yet, that wasn’t it for interest in the game, a City defensive shambles resulting in a Dakota Fusion goal in the 85th minute. Archie Suah was the scorer.
That was all that Dakota had though and, in the end, a consolation for a hard-fought performance but perhaps a flattering scoreline for a side that Minneapolis City saw off with relative ease to get the three points from their home opener.